Thursday, February 12, 2009

El Camino Real Derby (g. III) Preview

Not a big weekend of Kentucky Derby preps, but there is one in my backyard on Saturday, the 1 1/8 mile El Camino Real Derby (g. III) for a $200,000 purse at Golden Gate Fields in Northern California. This is a race that had been held at Bay Meadows Race Course at 8.5 furlongs but after closing its doors last August, it has been moved back to Golden Gate and has been extended and additional 1/2 furlong. I think the extra ground and the switch to the Tapeta surface could play a big role in the outcome of this race.

The primary contender in this Valentine's Day race is the coincidentally named Chocolate Candy, who hails from the Jerry Hollendorfer barn and will be ridden by jockey Russell Baze. Hollendorfer (4 wins) and Baze (5 wins) hold the record for most wins by a trainer and jockey respectively, and have teamed up 3 times to win this race. Chocolate Candy (Candy Ride/Crownette-Seattle Slew) drew clear of Axel Foley and Merus Miami in the California Derby last out at Golden Gate and has only lost in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity to Pioneerof the Nile, California's leading 3 year old, in the past 4 races. He's worked well coming into the race, a 47 second 4f bullet Tuesday, and should be primed for another big effort.

Of the two runners up in the Cal Derby, I think Axel Foley (Officer/Morganza-Clever Trick) provides the biggest threat to Chocolate Candy. (In fact Merus Miami is a scratch). He made a huge move around the far turn in his last, making up over 5 lengths before falling short. Trainer Doug O'Neill returns to Golden Gate with Michael Baze, who rode Axel Foley in his US debut, and a sharp 6f workout into his charge. My biggest question is stamina, which despite his closing style, I don't think he wants 9 furlongs with his pedigree.
A horse I really like is another from the Hollendorfer barn the #6 Rendezvous. He's 2 for 2 over this Tapeta track, and is working on a 3 race winning streak. By Belmont Stakes winner Victory Gallop, Rendezvous should have no problem with the distance, and despite his lack of prior class, he's an up and comer with a good closing kick. I think veteran jockey Bobby Gonzalez may keep him a little closer to the pace and get first jump on the sprint for home.

The Pick

On paper, Chocolate Candy looks very solid having beaten three of his rivals already. But he's been in training continuously since last July and I think he's due for a mis-step. If he doesn't fire, I think Axel Foley stands a good chance, but its the Dorf's other entry, Rendezvous, that I think gets it done. Should be a tight race.

The Bet
$10 Win/Place on #5 Rendezvous @ 3/1 or better
$2 Trifecta - 5,7 with 3,5,7 with 3,5,7

$28 bet total
If the weather holds out, I intend to go to the race and take some photos and give a full re-cap.

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